Over the years, I have faced many situations where love, as the world teaches it, told me to seek my own gratification, my own validation, my own comfort, my own consolation. Sometimes, I listened to this. In most of these cases, I have seen that the results do not necessarily last, but more importantly, they do not bring lasting joy and peace. They may produce happiness (or excitement or ecstasy) in the moment, or even for an extended period, depending on who you are, what you want or how much of yourself you have chosen to give up. But true joy and peace, they don’t.
This is because love isn’t really all these things.
Love is desiring the good of the other above all else, even when the good of the other means your own pain, your own sacrifice, even when it means self-denial. This is difficult and demanding, and sometimes, the self-sacrifice and self-denial is required for an extended period.
In this, we always have the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, who loved like no other. In the end, He vindicated all of humanity, but not before He died. And that is the hard part. The death.
Letting love lead the way always requires death. Death to our own self-importance, death to our own dreams or desires, death to our being right, death to our own demands to be loved as we want to be loved, death to our own comfort, death to our own consolation, death to our own search for happiness… Death to whatever does not truly result in the good of the other, even if the other thinks it is what is good for them.
Most importantly, letting love lead the way requires faith. Faith that God knows best and that if we just keep to what He says is right, and true and good, no matter the circumstances, it shall all be well, in the end. Faith that we are all so much better in the end if we choose a love that hurts and bleeds but can always be tried and found true. Not selfish or self-seeking but true.
This is AGAPE. The highest and truest form of love. It is therefore no surprise that we constantly fall short of that mark, that I constantly fall short of that mark. But part of my daily struggle is that, as long as grace provides the possibility of reaching for or aiming for that mark, I should always try. It is much easier to give in to my humanity, my weaknesses, my desire for comfort, and validation, and consolation, but I know my potential for reaching for the highest. I know it is in me because I am made in the image and likeness of one who lived it, one who lives it. I know I do not have many excuses to sidestep grace when it is offered to me. And so many times, I choose to take it, as painful and sacrificial as it may be. Many times still, I choose me. I choose comfort and consolation. But in all those times, I can never escape the knowledge and truth that I am made for more.
So I know I must always let true love lead the way. It is hard, it seems cold, it seems unfeeling, it is lonely (because who wants the hard road?), but it brings peace, and I can always live with the one companion I could never escape: myself. It is my calling. It is our calling.